The Interview with Jeffrey Alfier

by Tobi Alfier

Jeffrey Alfier at Bukowski’s grave.

Featured Poems

out to kill rabbits

the first day we dressed out

in P.E., in high school, a senior

boy punched me in the face,

called me a queer, and a chorus

of other boys howled in derision.

 

a rabbit sits atop a grassy

knoll, eats grass and watches

for danger.

 

at 16 i had yet to accept

my awkwardness,

long legs and gangly arms;

acne, sadness, and general

ineptitude.

 

a rabbit hides during daylight, in

thick bushes or down holes

in the earth, fearful of predators

and potential death.

 

throughout 10th grade everyone

picked on me, put me in a corner,

bullied me into complete sorrow.

yet i learned to run, to shout them down,

to fight without remorse,

to keep secrets

locked down tight.

 

coyotes and wolves and kids

with rocks stalk the rabbit, but

if the rabbit is smart, they

stay safe.  they must always

be smarter than those that wish

them harm.

 

by senior year i reached full

height, full strength.  mind

quick and nimble and more clever

than bullies.  i outgrew the noise

of high school, but not before

breaking bones and crushing souls.

 

a rabbit cornered can be a fearsome thing

and they will fight for survival when

running away is no longer an option.

 

just after winter break my senior year

i found myself in front of the damning

gaze of a vice-principal, his face red,

voice rough from yelling.  i had become

the bully.

 

a rabbit’s life is short due to so many

predators. life in the wild is

always a struggle.

 

upon graduation i left high school,

never looked back.  i still break bones

of predators,

 

out to kill rabbits.

Jack Henry is a writer/editor based in California. Recently he has been published in Ariel Chart, Rusty Truck, Scarlet Leaf Review, Horror Sleaze Trash, alien buddha press, and elsewhere. His next collection, driving w/crazy, will be released by Punk Hostage Press. Visit jackhenry.wordpress.com.

Bitter Honey

Bodies fill graves, graves grow honeycomb, earth rests

   lightly on its sodden cells, time swells

bones broken to pollen, death’s redolence, leaving

   nothing behind but bitter honey.

Only the dead know how to taste bitter honey,

   the taste that restores their strangled cries.

For a moment the cries are melodious with loss,

   then silence wrings their voices again.

Dig deeper. Beneath the graves lie even more

   ancient bodies hardening into rock.

Time layers the sediments, strata crack, bend

    and rupture under memory’s fire.

Millennia on millennia of erosion

   expose petrified amnesia.

Wind, sun and moon now pass serenely over

   indecipherable fossils waiting

for bodies to grow into armies, fill graves

   and join their amnesty of memory.

Steven Willett is a retired Classics professor specializing in ancient Greek and English versification. Much of his work has been in poetic translation in many languages.

Dig

When they handed him the changol and told

him to dig, he dug. Hard and deep like his life

depended on it. They said to dig for sustenance

of ten, but he dug for sins and sorrow of one.

Beyond the tarp, rain beat down on ground

like drums he used to play as a child—

insistently, aggressively—overflow bleeding

into his sheltered patch, turning soil to mud.

He had stood too long in the same spot and so

began to sink, borrowed boots engulfed in

red and brown as earth reclaimed him. They

promised he could wash off in their stream.

Atonement is fat that feeds seeds of good a

self-proclaimed sinner sows. Forgiveness is

the fruit it bears. Do good not for good, but to

be good. He picked chilis, beans, and basil.

Allison Thung is a writer from Singapore. She writes for the same reason she knits — to make sense of what would otherwise just be loose threads of thought and yarn. Allison has poetry published in Eunoia Review. Her website is www.allisonthung.com.

The lost garden

She carried the garden inside her

so she could take it with her across borders.

The lemon tree settled and its roots

grew down one leg.

Lemons, she thought, are always useful.

A Norfolk pine kept her standing straight.

The bamboo she kept in a pot,

so it would not take over everything.

Her mother’s lavender clasped her heart

and urged it to keep beating.

Passion fruit vines grew out with her hair.

In the midst of her grief,

blue and red parrots flew out of her suitcase.

Susan Sklan is a social worker and published poet. Her poem “On passing an old lover’s address” was selected by the Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sidewalk Poetry program of 2018, and installed in a city sidewalk.

Jeffrey Alfier’s latest collection of poems is The Shadow Field (Louisiana Literature Press, 2020). He is also author of Gone This Long: Southern Poems, The Wolf Yearling, Idyll for a Vanishing River, Fugue for a Desert Mountain, Anthem for Pacific Avenue, Southbound Express to Bayhead, The Red Stag at Carrbridge: Scotland Poems, Bleak Music: Poems & Photographs of the American Southwest, a photo and poetry collaboration with poet Larry D. Thomas, The Storm Petrel: Poems of Ireland and The Color of Forgiveness — co-authored with fellow editor Tobi Alfier.

TA: Briefly, when did you start writing poetry and when did you start submitting your work?

JA: I began toying with poetry in the mid-90s, though it was nothing serious. I didn’t begin writing poetry in earnest, in seriousness, until 1997. I also began submitting poetry that year. It was very bad writing in those early days; I had a 100% rejection rate my first year of submitting poems, but I finally turned the corner around late 2003. Since then I’ve had a 30-35% acceptance rate.

TA: When you’re reading poetry for pleasure, what draws you to those writers and poems? Specific turns of phrase or vocabulary, styles, great figurative language, etc.

 

JA: I look for images that stay with me, those wrought from a sense of concision that produce memorable lines, especially great endings that employ a sense of what Keats called “negative capability” where the poet is able to inscribe — especially in the last line — uncertainty, obscurity, or doubt without any desperate reaching for resolutions derived from reasoning processes; clarifying moments but not necessarily logical outcomes.

The Inhabitants of Paradise

She loved the way the tiger kitten

jumped into her naked lap.

The red lines did not hurt,

 

washed away in the river,

leaving unbroken skin.  How good it was,

the way they watched the shadows

 

climbing up the birch trunks,

evening a softer, different kind of day.

The names were not fixed, she thought

 

She’d call the animals by how they moved.

The waddles could swim, too,

but the swims stayed inside water.

 

And if they built a structure,

she and he, of leaves spread over vines,

they would fold it up soon, there was no

 

need for shelter, it was just to build,

out of joy.  No anger, none of this

sad wariness, if he were late

 

she would just wait there, threading daisies,

until he came.  And then the night

curved over them, every familiar star.

 

And pride a good thing, look,

I made this for you, is it not

beautiful?  No accuser.  No sin.

Janet McCann taught creative writing at Texas A&M. Journals publishing her work include Kansas Quarterly, Parnassus, Nimrod, Sou’wester, Christian Century, New York Quarterly, and more. Her most recent book-length poetry collection is The Crone at the Casino, Lamar University Press, 2015.

Archetypical Desiccation

You need to hydrate love.

Find the balance

of chemical support

and mix it with

the freshest of water.

Share this often

throughout

the domestic day.

It will prevent

the low blood pressure

of a tired heart,

memory loss

associated with life lies

and

the occasional self-inflicted fall

from blurred vision.

R. Gerry Fabian is a retired English instructor. He has been publishing his writing since 1972 in various literary magazines. He has published three books of poems and three novels. He lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. His web page is https://rgerryfabian.wordpress.com.

An Abstraction on the Tangible, With Trees

I tend to wander through forests of abstractions

to reach the tangible. The old hump-backed chair

 

in the living room. The knots on the pine floor

speaking the steady code of trees. The pictures

 

on the walls with trees in them. The trees framed

by windows. The dream catcher in the window.

 

The picture of the stag, in trees, my abstraction

of maleness, an invitation. Then you came to plant

 

trees, catch my dreams, sit in the chair and slowly

make the abstract tangible, as if you had emerged

 

tangible from some abstraction of mine but

that would only be the part that was not you.

 

The best part is you.

Carol Casey lives in Blyth, Ontario, Canada. Her work has appeared in The Prairie Journal, The Anti-Langourous Project, Please See Me, Front Porch Review, Cypress, Vita Brevis, and others, including several anthologies.

Yair Mejía on Unsplash.

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